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IFS hope as ex-IPS officer vacates post

New Delhi, July 31: Former IPS officer Nehchal Sandhu resigned as deputy national security adviser today, an exit that sources said was not unexpected and would help restore a balance in favour of foreign service officers in such jobs.

Sandhu cited “personal reasons” for the move. “I am entitled to my personal decisions. I wanted to be free,” the former Intelligence Bureau chief told The Telegraph over phone this evening, declining to elaborate.

Appointed when the Congress-led UPA was in power, Sandhu left a year and five months before his three-year tenure was to end in December 2015.

“The Prime Minister (Narendra Modi) accepted his resignation with regret and expressed appreciation for Shri Sandhu’s outstanding service to the country in a career spanning over 40 years, as a police officer, director of the Intelligence Bureau and deputy national security adviser,” an official release said.

Although the Prime Minister expressed “regret”, the sources said there were hints Sandhu would put in his papers. “We were hearing about it for a week now and it is sad for the system,” an official said.

Sandhu’s exit from the National Security Council secretariat has fanned speculation that an IFS officer will take over.

His position had seemed tenuous ever since Ajit Doval was named national security adviser (NSA) by the Modi government almost two months ago. Like Sandhu, Doval is a former IPS officer and an ex-IB chief. Doval had succeeded Shiv Shankar Menon, an IFS officer and a former foreign secretary.

Doval was only the second IPS officer picked for the post. The first was M.K. Narayanan, who served from 2005 to 2010 and was later Bengal governor.

Doval’s appointment had tipped the scales in favour of IPS officers and apparently caused heartburn among foreign service officers. “This move is probably to get foreign service officers in to balance out things,” a source said, adding an IFS officer “younger” to Doval may be named his deputy.

But trust Sandhu not to spill any secrets in this season of tell-all tomes by retired officials and ex-ministers. “No,” the former Bihar cadre officer said when asked if he was planning a book.

In fact, so discreet was Sandhu that some of his colleagues at a meeting of the National Security Advisory Board today said they had no inkling he would resign hours later. The board will meet again tomorrow, probably without Sandhu.